The Life and Death of the QR Code: Part I. Life

“Every time you use a QR code for your business because you can, and not because you should, whether your market wants them or not” write Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer in QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground, “a kitten dies—a sweet, innocent kitten.”

Grumpy cat no has qr codes

You may have heard how Peatix recently awoke to the fact that its ticketing system was destroying rapidly expanding herds of kittens, and that we decided to do something about it, with plans to reduce our net-kitten-slaughter rate (NKSR) to negligible numbers within a year (other sites, like Ticketmaster, have no current plans to reduce their NKSR. Ticketmaster also anagrams to Kittenslayer, which is particularly malicious of them considering there are no Ns, Ls or Ys in their name).

So why the current kitticide? How did we take the greatest kitten-viewing medium ever invented and turn it into a veritable kittencaust? Metaphorical or not (in the case of TicketFly I’ve heard—and this is purely a very accurate rumor—the kitten killing leans toward not metaphorical) today’s QR code-induced kitten mass purrder (alright, I’ll stop) begs a very serious journalistic investigation.

Which it will not receive here. But we will take a look at how QR codes and QR code tickets came to be a fixture of the modern mobile landscape without anyone really caring much for them, why they are a glowing, preeminent example of technological hype, and thirdly, why they should be buried alive and not given any funeral rites. And it will all be super exciting and interesting, so keep reading, lest Ticketmaster somehow be alerted to the fact you’re hiding kittens in your attic.

The Original was Better: The Barcode

Zebra barcode cartoon

US Patent #2,612,994 was filed on October 7, 1952, and, at the time, no one gave a shit. Today few probably still do, but that patent #2,61somethingsomething was to change the course of human history, if in a small and really dull way. Also did you know the first barcodes looks like this?:

Ancient barcode

The barcode became a billion dollar industry, and made it’s inventors…pretty much nothing because the patent expired before the use of barcodes was widely adopted. Wa waa. But when barcodes did become widely instituted, some saw reflected in them a truth about ourselves, a truth summed up in The Bar Code Book: Reading, Printing and Specification of Bar Code Symbols (Amazon review: “A very good reference book for barcodes. A definite must-have.”): “The barcode basically took an insecurity Americans were feeling about themselves—that, though they were doubtlessly all unique and special and important in their own way, they were being used by those more powerful than them as a means to an end they couldn’t understand—and projected it onto the bottoms and sides of every box and tag in the country, so that the average person might feel like they were regaining some control over their life when buying Triscuits, or Cheese its, or mint Oreos.”

So, if barcodes were originally just a sign of our insecurities in modern society, what do QR codes say about us? Are they still cool? Are you cool for never using QR codes? Check back super soon for the second installment of our groundbreaking, in-no-way journalistically sound investigation of QR codes, their status in mobile society, and what combination of spices Eventbrite likes to use to season their kittens. Also the answer to that last question up there is yes.